Psycho Beach Party (2000)

Director Robert Lee King
Writers Charles Busch
Starring Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon, Kimberly Davies, Matt Keeslar, Charles Busch, Beth Broderick, Danni Wheeler, Nick Cornish, Andrew Levitas, Amy Adams
Genre Parody
Tagline Party till you drop Dead.
Country   

Talk us through it

Florence Forrest is trying to find her place in the world of 1960s music, surf, and slightly weird dudes. She lives with her single Mom, an exchange student named Lars, and her best friend is Berdine who is a post modern feminist even before feminism threw off the apron strings. Flo finds her place in the world amongst a local "hep" surfing gang. They nickname her Chicklet and she learns to hang ten in front of a green screen surf from local surfing legend the great Kanaka.

The only blight on Chicklet's copy book is her split personality, brought to the fore via any circular symbol, art class must have been a bitch, and the rising body count amongst the local teens. Could Chicklet be knocking off the locals while another personality is in control of her body or is someone else out to ensure the pristine nature of the local environment. Captain Monica Stark is on the case, heaven help us all!

Ready to wipe out at the local luau?

Review

"Who do you have to fuck to get a hotdog in this dump?" - Ann Bowman

Director Robert Lee King kicks off his epic with a go-go dancer gyrating to some wild surf music as the opening credits roll. I reckon they should have more go-go dancers in movies introducing things and added a touch of class to proceedings. As we'll see an early forced attempt to go parody on our arses that leaves you wondering why. The movie starts in earnest down the local drive in where Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, or some facsimile thereof, is playing to a largely uncaring audience. Seems U.S kids either went to the drive in to make out or to explore the feminist principles behind cheap 1950s Sci-Fi flicks. We are introduced to Marvel Ann who is making eyes at Xanader Harris the improbably named Starcat, Berdine who has a future reading things into slasher movies, and the overly preppy Florence who just wants to get a snack. Almost immediately we learn Florence has a split personality as one of her two alter egos, Ann Bowman, emerges and utters the immortal line "Who do you have to fuck to get a hotdog in this dump?" Naturally this is a hilarious moment, who doesn't get a laugh out of a preppy chick going foul mouthed unexpectedly. Be prepared for more double entrenders than an undergraduate review show as the local outdoor movie hangout goes weiner jibes on us.

By the end of the movie, that seems to take a few hours longer to arrive than the advertised running time, we'll get used to Writer Charles Busch ticking all the boxes for unexpected comedy, including anal humour and chicks getting their clothes ripped off by mistake. Benny Hill would have been right at home in this movie. I'm not entirely convinced that Busch wasn't trying to send up a few more targets than his obvious genre victims, this wasn't meant as straight comedy surely? We have the Captain of Police who is a woman being played by a man in the sort of cross dressing frivolity that Edward Wood Jnr would have understood and would have approved of. Chicklet's Mom, who is a caricature of the 1950s little woman Hollywood believed in, she even mentions that laundry is women's work. Mom even gets to go sex in the suburbs over drinks one night though Lars isn't in for any suburban mayhem, damn! Full marks to the lingerie industry, that black bra ruled. And the sort of stereotypical surfer characters that Gidget would have recognized and invited down to the local malt shop. This film is simply jammed packed with enough recognisable elements to have even your grandmother tucking in.

Busch produced the script from his off off Broadway stage show and I think it really shows. Director Robert Lee King seems less inclined to make a kinetic movie, you know the sort where people are actually not on what appears to be sound stages, than making a statement that he too can produce a Broadway stage show. The sets simply seem constructed rather than organic, though once again this might be the intent of the film makers rather than a fault. For modern Audiences it's a jarring effect that dates Psycho Beach Party to a much older period of film making.

There are some weird details being intertwined with the general parodying of both Surfer and Slasher movies, and I hasten to add a couple of barbed comments on the state of the movie making nation as it currently stands. Besides the cross dressing Captain, King and Busch really extending themselves to shock and failing since the audience has already jived to Ed Wood shenanigans, we have two surfer dudes who are clearly gay, not that there's anything wrong with that. Let's face facts here friends and neighbours, male wrestling in horror movies is never about sport it's a proclamation of homo-erotica. Exhibit A A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and now Exhibit "B" Psycho Beach Party. I'm not too sure if this particular subplot is meant to shock us, is a really bad attempt at humour, or is sending up one aspect of the surf movies that never seems to get much focus. Local "B" movie castaway Bettina Barnes apparently rents a haunted house, or a cursed house, or some such, and besides Bettina bringing new meaning to dumb blond this aspect of the movie is introduced, apparently is going to feature heavily in the plot development, and then gets dropped like a stale hotdog. It at least gives Berdine a chance to mention she has access to a book on Balinese Exorcism rites. For no apparent reason the great Kanaka talks in rhymes that could put most rappers to shame. It's pretty good dialogue daddy-o and some of Kanaka's lines are a hoot to listen out for. Rounding out our beach bugaloo of delight we get one of those dance offs that apparently replaced violence as a means to asserting who runs things. Marvel Ann's crew versus Bettina Barnes and cohorts, all to a rousing surf orientated guitar number that I really wish I hadn't listen to. Hey speaking of which, where were the Beach Boys when you needed them!

Sorry almost iced this one without mentioning the horror elements that we all dialed in for. We're in slasher country here but Director King isn't hitting that high note, all murders are committed off screen, at no time do we get anything like tension, and I was left somewhat disappointed as the end credits rolled. Our resident Jason was pretty shy when it came to showing off his handiwork and stylings. Anyways anyone with an imperfection is on the victim list, as Writer Busch takes a swipe at the old surfer movies that only featured the beautiful people, and gave the Hollywood horror industry a kick up the arse for that development in the modern dark genre movie.

Lauren Ambrose (Florence 'Chicklet' Forrest) is ably cast and handles the preppy part of the role, the more experience part, and the sassy black woman part with equal aplomb. Ambrose was well cast here and knocked it through for a major. Thomas Gibson (Kanaka) seemed to be asleep through the movie, but that could be down to some bloody hard dialogue he had to deliver, jury out. Nicholas Brendon (Starcat) simply reprised Xanda, really hoping he isn't a one trick pony here. Kimberly Davies (Bettina Barnes) was absolutely on in the dumb blond role with the Seven Year Itch accent. Respect to Davies here. And Charles Busch (Captain Monica Stark) almost channeled an argyle sweater.

T&A is fairly evenly spread, no pun intended. Gals can get down to some pretty solid looking dudes, the guys get one bare bottom (worth waiting for), and we all miss out on boobs.

Ben Vaughn kept it to the sounds of the ocean with lots of guitar driven surfing music. It sounds like it should be irritating but somehow Vaughn keeps the clock ticking.

Summary Execution

I wouldn't have gone near this movie if it wasn't for an update to our Aussie movie list. Another source of past glories was found and low and behold Psycho Beach Party was on the list. A quick check of the imdb listing and the Production companies confirmed Aussie involvement so I was ready to hit the waves. As luck would have it a copy, see next paragraph, wasn't that hard to find and I hung ten with the whole concept. Not the worse movie I've ever seen and clearly not the best either. Slightly too long for the story and subplots, many of which went nowhere, but I did hold on till the end credits rather than wiping out.

There's a certainly degree of synchronicity in this reviewing game, the planets simply seem to align, and the time is right for fighting in the streets. At my local mall a new DVD/CD store opened up last weekend with movies available for the not so princely sum of $2. Psycho Beach Party was available, as was a Naomi Watts flick that we'll get to in an upcoming event. So I really have no idea where to source this one from, have a go at your local $2 dollar store as they might just have it in stock. Otherwise eBay, bargain bins, or the weekly rental shelf down the local.

Okay so I'm not going to try to sell ya on this one, "B" movie fans just might appreciate the nuances here, about no one else will be interested. An overlong attempt at parodying the surf and slasher movie genre that wipes out before hitting the intended targets. For some reason I thought I had been invited to a better party.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Mostly harmless but the surf doesn't amount to much.